Recognizing The Legacy of American Slavery and Philanthropy’s Role in the Movement for Reparations

Blog piece written by Jenna Patel, Manager of Programs and Communications

As a former AmeriCorps VISTA member serving at a small, under-resourced community action organization located on the east side of Buffalo, NY, the legacy of American slavery is one I came to understand in much greater depth. It’s something many of us philanthropic stakeholders read about in scholarly articles and academic reports, but something few of us ever experience being in proximity. 

I was headed back home after a long day at my AmeriCorps service site to my apartment on Main Street, the segregating street of Buffalo, the sixth most segregated city in the country. I had ended my day meeting with a 20-year-old young Black boy whose single mother had passed away from gun violence two weeks prior, and who was responsible for navigating the complex Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher system to secure housing for himself as well as his 3-year-old and 7-year-old siblings. I will never forget him. I filled out every lottery application I came across on his behalf, provided daily updates to him of new housing opportunities or resources I came across, I even drove to him to help him fill out an application that had a tight deadline because he had no transportation to get to my service site. But these efforts felt futile in the confinements of a system designed to work against him. That day, I stopped at the closest grocery store, purchased a couple of snacks, and cried in my car in the parking lot. I immediately felt guilty for crying. I thought to myself that this wasn’t my pain or my struggle, and that I have no right to cry. The truth is, I am human. And the truth is, to not feel emotion in a situation like this goes against human nature. I think a big part of the sadness I felt was due to the fact that this is the exact pain and struggle so many people turn a blind eye to, and one many of us will never fully know. This is the pain and struggle so many Black Americans are burdened by. This is the pain and struggle of the legacy of American slavery, created and reinforced by White, Colonial America. Access the full blog below.

Recognizing The Legacy of U.S. Slavery and Philanthropy’s Role in the Movement for Reparations

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